NASA has laid out a three-phase program to collect data on public acceptance of reduced sonic booms using the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works-developed low-boom demonstrator, which has been designated the X-59A QueSST.

Community response data gathered by the Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) program will be provided to the FAA and International Civil Aviation Organization to help define a standard for en route noise that will permit civil supersonic flight over land.

First flight of the X-59A from Skunk Works is scheduled for mid-fiscal 2021. In Phase 1, Lockheed will conduct initial checkout flights followed by envelope expansion flying into fiscal 2023, according to Craig Nickol, LBFD project manager.

The aircraft will then be handed over to NASA for Phase 2 — acoustic validation testing by Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California. This will measure and characterize the reduced boom, or sonic “thump,” in different flight and atmospheric conditions, he told the AIAA Aviation 2018 conference here June 28.

In Phase 3, “the rubber will hit the road,” Nickol says, when the X-59A conducts a series of community-response tests. This will begin with an initial overflight survey at Edwards in the first half of fiscal 2023, followed by multiple campaigns in which the aircraft will be deployed to fly over representative U.S. communities in representative weather conditions.